Sebastian Vettel wrapped up the World Championship with victory in the Indian GP
Red Bull driver becomes the youngest driver ever to win four titles
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 27/10/13 4:41pm
The win enables the 26-year-old German to add to his already formidable tally of Formula 1 records - the Red Bull driver now the youngest to win four straight World Championships.
Although Vettel was unable to add to another record - he had previously led every single lap at the Buddh International Circuit - it was another imperious display. A variety of strategies inspired by a marked performance differential between the two tyres on offer meant he had to pit early but it seemed inevitable he would eventually pop up in P1.
"An incredible day. Winning the Championship by winning that race was definitely Sebastian's objective the moment he arrived here," Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1 after the race. "He's just been phenomenal all weekend.
"It's amazing," he added. "The kid's 26 years of age and he's just getting better and better and better."
It was an altogether different outcome for Fernando Alonso, the only driver with a mathematical chance of overhauling Vettel in the title race. As the latter performed doughnuts in front of the crowd before getting down on his knees in front of his RB9 - a suitable 'I am not worthy' gesture - the Ferrari driver was reflecting on his 11th place.
Alonso's race was as good as over at the first corner after he clipped the back of Mark Webber's Red Bull, forcing an early stop for a new front wing. Having qualified on the medium tyre, his race strategy was also ruined. As it turned out, though, he wouldn't have been able to do anything.
Webber fared little better, although starting on the medium tyre meant that he did at least manage to lead the race. Vettel pitted as early as lap two to get rid of the brittle soft but was soon to be found carving his way through the field. Up to second place by lap 21, he inherited the lead seven laps later when his team-mate pitted for softs.
They lasted five laps but no sooner had Webber stopped again than he was out of the race for good with an alternator failure. Vettel was forced to manage his KERS use, not to mention regulate use of his drinks dispenser, for fear of the same problem developing but his points haul was still sufficient for Red Bull to claim their fourth straight constructors' title.
Nico Rosberg finished second for Mercedes but evidence of how the tyres mixed things up came with Romain Grosjean's third place from 17th on the grid - the Frenchman making just one pit stop. He passed team-mate Kimi Raikkonen during a frenetic battle in the closing stages as the Finn in turn struggled in vain to make a set of medium tyres last over 50 laps.
Raikkonen was eventually forced to pit and finished seventh behind Sergio Perez - who earned the best finish of his McLaren career with fifth - and Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver also struggling with tyre wear.
Force India made a timely return to the points with Paul Di Resta finishing eighth ahead of Adrian Sutil, who also one-stopped. Starting on mediums, the German ran well up the field before pitting on lap 42. Ricciardo also featured prominently - the Aussie running has high as second at one point.
Ricciardo lost that place to - who else? - his future team-mate, with Vettel's performance advantage such that strategy considerations ultimately made no difference. He now stands alongside Juan-Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher in terms of achievement and, surely without argument, also stands alongside both in terms of status as a legend of the sport.
Red Bull Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey seems to think so. "This sport is man and machine so without great drivers you can't win Championships, that's for sure," he said after the race. "He's a pleasure to work with, he's very humble and the success he's had over the last few years, which has obviously been phenomenal, hasn't gone to his head one tiny little bit.
"I think to compare Sebastian to other drivers I've worked with would be very unfair; the one thing I'd say they all have in common, though, is that they all have that ability to drive and process and think at the same time."
Clearly, it's not all about the car.